The Hunt for Fish; Swimsuit Optional


My quest for family-friendly waterfront property in a landlocked state.


the Boston skyline with sailboats in the waterMy husband Frank and I met in Boston, and he was raised in Massachusetts, a place where summer is used as a verb. An unspoken stipulation of our return to my hometown to raise our children has always been summer trips to the East coast to spend time on the water. And then here we are, 2020, the summer and year that turned us all on our heads. As we all retracted inwards, Frank sought solace in a childhood hobby he had inherited from his father and uncle; fishing. And thus, I began my quest for a summer on the water, in the middle of this landlocked state. I love a good challenge.

Frank and I have two children, and while both young, they have two totally different needs and attention spans. Frank III, or Trip, is five. He is a typical young boy who loves to spend time outdoors with his Daddy. His attention span is growing, but still limited, and he can retain information like a sponge. Then there is Winnie. She is 1 1/2 and is always on the go, in constant need of attention, love, and snacks. I quickly determined that on these journeys, what worked for Trip would not always work for Winnie. Oh, and we have Rocky, can’t forget about our crazy dingo-like pup. With this criterion in mind, I set off in pursuit of the perfect fishing spots that our region has to offer.

a mom and her daughter


What I look for in a place to visit with my family has obviously changed over the past year. My tolerance for crowds has gone from low (with little kids, you want to avoid a wait or a spectacle) to none. But how do you go about searching for a hidden gem, especially one that hasn’t been discovered by the masses? So here is what I look for:

  • Water. I prefer a lake, but I am not picky.  We have also been to spots with ponds and rivers and even streams. 
  • Other activities.  While Winnie doesn’t fish like her big brother, she is a bit of a fish herself. Ideally, I love a lake with a swimming beach, but I also don’t mind a place where we can float or dip our toes. If swimming isn’t available, a place for walking, hiking, or biking is ideal.
  • Dog Friendly. Like so many parents, Rocky is our firstborn. With our remote working and the kids at home for so long, the poor pup has grown quite attached to his humans. If we can bring him, we do. 
  • Lodging. We have done a lot of day trips, but if we are going to stay overnight, we must have walls, ideally many of them. I personally love a good night spent under the stars, but the idea of young Winnie in a tent is terrifying. So glamping it is.
  • Safety. I should have probably put this at the top because it is always top of mind. I try to find remote spots where we can practice social distancing. If we are staying overnight, I try to look for places that are not booked immediately before our arrival, thus allowing some space between us and the other renters. I also have a tool from the Harvard Global Health Institute that breaks down risk levels for every county across the country. I have found this to be incredibly helpful as the spikes around the country and region continue. Some may consider this overkill, but I like to be as informed as possible. 

a boy standing next to a boat on a lake


If you haven’t figured it out, I am a planner. It hurt when the pandemic initially took that away, so I dove into this project headfirst. And I have all of the Instagram ads to show for it. Here are a few helpful sites that I have used.

  • HipcampThis site allows private land and homeowners to rent out their space for camping and glamping. You can search for campsites and cabins. 
  • MO State Parks – I have found this site to be a great resource. You can select a park based on your activities and go from there. Some parks have cabins, some don’t. Either way, book early as these places fill up fast.
  • Campspot – We use this to search for cabins and cottages that can often be found on RV campgrounds. Many of the sites are usually near state parks or have a good piece of land to explore on their own. 
  • RVShare – Like Airbnb for RV owners, we are using this site to rent our first RV. We will be joining our neighbors (who rent their camper out on RVShare when they are not using it) for a weekend at Mark Twain Lake State Park in early August. Honestly, I couldn’t think of a better way to travel with friends and still have your own space.
  • The Path to Zero – As mentioned above, this is the site that I use to check for up to date COVID-19 statistics for places we plan to travel. It is straightforward as any data set I have seen.


the canopy of an RV with chairs and a picnic table by a lake


Places we Have Visited so Far

I used to be the person people sought out when they planned their first trip to Boston (when we all start traveling like that again, I am happy to provide any recommendations ☺), now I get questions about the places we have gone this summer. So here you go.

Day Trips (Arrive early for any of these spots as they tend to fill up in the afternoon)


a father holding a fish as he fishes with his toddler sonWe still have many more adventures this summer, an upcoming stay at Tablerock Lake near Lake Tannycomo, and Frank wants to make it out to Bennett Springs. The packing list this year is a bit different. We may have traded our beach chairs for coolers of grillable food, drinks, and worms, but we will still always pack that swimsuit.


a headshot of a woman

Born and raised in St. Louis, Jessica (Lillie) Ciccone is mom to Frank “Trip” III and Winnie. She is married to Frank II, whom she convinced to move back to her hometown after 8 years in Boston, where he grew up.  Together, Frank and Jessica enjoy finding new and exciting places to travel with their kids. While in St. Louis, they love spending time with her parents and the extended Lillie clan as Jessica is the lesser, but older, one of three redheaded sisters and fellow moms.

Professionally, Jessica serves as the Director of Communications at Saint Louis University School of Law.  When she can find spare time, she enjoys running, biking, and a nice glass of wine with friends and family.  She is a fierce advocate of paid family leave, and dreams of knowing a world where moms in the United States can take an unlimited amount of time with their newborns.